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US defense bill moves to halt Germany troop withdrawal

December 4, 2020

The legislation could stymie Donald Trump's plans to pull almost 12,000 troops out of Germany. The president has threatened to veto the bill as it also requires US military bases to strip names of Confederate leaders.

US troops in Germany stand in front of an American flag
Trump is determined to cut nearly 12,000 troops in GermanyImage: Nicolas Armer/dpa/picture alliance

US lawmakers have announced the final version of an annual defense spending bill which would halt President Donald Trump's planned withdrawal of troops from Germany.

Trump called for a partial withdrawal of troops over the summer amid a long-running dispute with Berlin over its defense spending, which is far below the NATO target of 2% of the gross domestic product. Under his plan, nearly 12,000 of the 36,000 American soldiers in Germany would leave the country.

But the legislation — the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — says a troop pullout can only occur 120 days after the defense secretary submits an analysis to Congress on the impact of the withdrawal. The deadline to withdraw troops is January 15, five days before Trump is set to leave the White House.

The bill, which was crafted by a group of Republican and Democrat lawmakers, would also complicate Trump's plans to bring back troops from Afghanistan and South Korea. It still needs to be passed by Congress.

Trump threatens veto

Trump, who is due to leave office next month, has said he would veto the latest version of the NDAA on two grounds. He opposes a provision that would require US military bases named after members of the Confederate Army to be renamed, and he has said the bill lacks a provision that would repeal legal protections for social media companies, known as Section 230.

Trump has accused social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter of silencing conservative figures during his unsuccessful reelection campaign. If Trump blocks the NDAA, it would likely be difficult for Congress to override the veto.

Read moreGermany hopes for continued US support in Afghanistan

59-year NDAA streak 

The $740 billion (€609 billion), 4,500-page NDAA came after months of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives. A version of the bill has been passed every year since 1961.

The most recent version of the NDAA addresses pay increases for US troops, how many ships can be purchased, how to address China and Russia and mandatory sanctions on Turkey for its acquisition of the Russian S-400 air missile defense system.

The bill would also require any armed forces to identify themselves as well as their agencies — a provision that was introduced by Democrats after some troops deployed by Trump during this year's protests against police brutality refused to say who they were or where they came from.

kbd/nm (dpa, Reuters)